How Your First Job Can Affect the Rest of Your Life

July 20th 2016

Tricia Tongco

Do you ever wonder what your career will look like decades after your first job?

You probably imagine yourself in a higher-paying position than when you first entered the job market. But moving up an income bracket has become more difficult in America during recent years, new research has found.

A new study by Michael D. Carr and Emily E. Wiemers, two economists from the University of Massachusetts, concludes:

"Mobility has declined for both men and women and among workers of all levels of education, with the largest declines among college-educated workers."

It is now more likely that if you make a low income in your first job, you will still be making very little later in your career, The Atlantic reported. If you start out making higher wages, you will likely continue to do so for the rest of your life.

Your first job is a pretty solid predictor of where you'll be toward the end of your career.

The researchers used data on individual earnings from the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation to measure someone’s chances of moving among different earnings groups from 1981 to 2008.

"The probability of ending where you start has gone up, and the probability of moving up from where you start has gone down,” Carr told The Atlantic.

The researchers aren't sure why this is so, but the answer seems to lie in another 2008 study of trends in wage inequality in the U.S. That study's researchers made the following findings, which could be factors in the current economic situation:

  1. There has been a dramatic rise in income inequality from the 1970s.

  2. While the number of jobs at the bottom and the top of the pay scale is increasing, the number of jobs in the middle isn’t.

"If there were more employment growth in the middle, those who start out at the bottom might have a better shot at moving up," The Atlantic reported.

[h/t The Atlantic]